A cheap gift can be pretty tacky. How can you look like you spent a lot while spending just a little?
The trick here is to be a good gift-giver and to buy quality items only when they are discounted. Here are some tips for doing just that:
First, good gift-givers always have a secret hideout in their home (either a gift closet or even just a gift shelf) for gifts they have purchased for people throughout the year.
Sometimes, a gift in your gift closet will be so good that you won't be able to stop yourself from presenting it early (and that certainly doesn't save you any money) but the experience will probably be worth it nonetheless.
Now stock that gift closet, but not all at once. Throughout the year, pick up items that you know your recipients will love. When you get just the right gift for a person, you won't be so focused on how much you spent.
A big part of being a good gift-giver comes from simply paying attention. When you attend or hostess children's birthday parties, make notes of what gifts got the most oohs and aahs from the party guests. Make notes throughout the year and keep a written file (mine is the back page of my Daytimer) with ideas of things that people have mentioned that they enjoy or would like to have. Then, when those items come up for sale, snag them at a discount.
Don't get overwhelmed by trying to buy everything at once. One trick I heard from a person who has 20 grandchildren: At the time of each child's birthday, she buys two gifts. She gives one to the child for her birthday and wraps the other for Christmastime. Once the holidays hit, her spending and wrapping are done.
Sign up for email notifications at your favorite gift stores. If you have a favorite boutique or gift specialty shop, make sure that you are on the store's mailing list. Some of the big online gift specialty stores have huge sales (with markdowns as high as 70 percent) at certain times of the year. It's a great time to stock up on things.
Stock up on gift wrap when you see it on sale, too. You can often snag great deals for this type of merchandise at craft supply stores (instead of specialty stores and gift stores).
And don't limit yourself to stuff. Often the best gifts aren't things at all, but experiences. A couple of ideas: Spa gift certificates or (here's one that is always a hit) a "date night" for a couple with young children (with certificates for babysitting, dinner, and movie tickets).
Also remember that a personal touch goes a long, long way. People love to receive handmade or personalized gifts. Even if you aren't adept at making such things as candles or jewelry, you may be surprised at how easy (and fun) these types of crafts are once you get started. Or you can keep the gift simple and jazz it up with a tin of homemade cookies or a thoughtful handmade card. Another idea: create a simple photo gift, which today's online photo processing sites make as easy as clicking on a photo and your choice of gift. Any creative, personalized touch makes a gift so much more memorable and doesn't cost much at all.
More than your gift, a person will treasure the notion that you have invested time, thought, and energy into the relationship by taking the time to find that perfect gift. Take pride in your ability to be a good gift giver. Take that time and invest that energy, and you'll tend to spend less money.